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“Distracted focus” is the paradoxical name of the leadership skill C-suite executives need to successfully navigate the challenges of a modern crisis.

With social media, emails, various live communication channels, and an ever-expanding menagerie of entertainment opportunities constantly tugging at our sleeves, we are doubtlessly living in the age of distraction. Yet, the intelligent leader cannot afford to zone out and focus laser-like on a single issue.

An intelligent leader thrives on a diverse information-diet. 

During a crisis, an intelligent leader needs to be a decent forecaster. That ability is reserved for those who seek out diverse sources of input. Harnessing the powers of diverse networks also promotes innovation – an asset, the value of which increases significantly in times of instability and strife.

Masters of the “distracted focus” maintain diverse information diets, while being able to lock in their focus, instead of zoning out.

The Problems with Distracted Focus

What this unique intelligent leadership skill requires of you is to focus while being distracted. Its paradoxical nature is not the only factor that makes mastering it a difficult challenge.

Despite harboring the richest and most diverse collection of information humankind has ever amassed, the modern internet is surprisingly inept at delivering a diverse information diet.

Social media is partly to blame for this shortfall. By their nature, social circles represent congregations of entities with similar value systems and views. Thus, they limit the information they circulate to a bubble. That explains why, within such bubbles, even the most preposterous “fake news” can gain traction.

“Traditional” social media exposure is, therefore, antithetic to a diverse information diet. It is the bad sort of distraction.

Fostering a Diverse “Information Diet”

As I have pointed out in my book Intelligent Leadership, a mature leader is humble, modest, and courageous enough to question him/herself.

Self-questioning is an important skill in this regard, well worthy of deliberate nurturing.

Question yourself and explore alternative views.

Once you have defined your position on an issue, ask yourself what the opposite perspective would be. Explore the information that would support such a perspective.

Tools such as my Input-Output Processing Template will help you gain an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in the context of your information processing preferences.

Locking In Instead of Zoning Out

During a crisis such as the current COVID-19 strife, your ability to forecast based on diverse information and to focus effectively, gains added importance.

Intelligent leaders find ways to zoom in on essential matters.

  • They tend to favor speed over precision in their decision-making.
  • They adapt to rapidly changing circumstances courageously.
  • They take ownership and keep the focus of their team aligned.
  • They take good care of their teams engaging with team members on an individual basis when needed.
  • They note, amplify, and actively communicate successes and positive messages.

If you find your “distracted focus” skill maxed out, but still unsatisfactory, you can complement it with a collaborator who possesses the right distracted focus strength/weakness profile.

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